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Meal Planning 101

Posted by imawheatwatcher on March 18, 2009

Did you just cringe? wince? get a headache?
I used to (and sometimes still do) when I think of meal planning.  Meal planning can be as simple as (and as stressful as) the 5:00 “what’s for dinner?” rush or writing down what you might eat during one week or as organized as (and more complicated as?) planning an entire month’s worth of meal menus.
In order to build an accurate one-month supply (or more) of pantry items that your family will actually EAT, you will need to work to a menu planning system (not of the 5:00 “what’s for dinner?” type.)  Please know that any system you choose will take some time to put together, especially if you’re “starting from scratch” by going from the 5:00 panic system to a well planned, able to build a pantry from system.  But once it’s together it will simplify your grocery shopping, daily dinnertime and food storage planning.

Creating a Well Stocked Pantry

Menu Planning for a 3-month supply

All systems have four basic steps

  1. MEALS. Create a list of meals (breakfast, lunch & dinner) that your family usually eats

  2. INGREDIENTS. From those meals, create a list of ingredients needed.

  3. MULTIPLY. Make your ‘short’ list last longer by multiplying meals, ingredients or entire menus.

  4. INVENTORY. You’ll need a system to track what you have and what you need to buy to stock your pantry and keep it FULL!

Choose from the plan summaries below to find one YOU like and could work for YOUR family. OR use parts you like from each to create your own system. We will discuss the details at Wheat Watchers.

24 to go – Follow the Basics

Make a menu list of 12 dinners, 6 breakfasts and 6 lunches that your family enjoys (24 menus total.) Make a list of ingredients needed for each meal. Multiply those ingredients by 3 (1 month), 5 (2 months) or 8 (3 months) Use basic have/need inventory tracking. Pros: Provides plan for breakfasts, lunch and dinner, Simple & Flexible. Cons: Least variety

Marilyns’ Plan – A month of menus

Create a comprehensive list of meals your family enjoys. Decide how frequently to use each meal during one month. Create ingredient list multiplied by frequency of meal per month. Multiply ingredients by one, two or three for your pantry stocking Use basic have/need inventory tracking. Pros: Most variety, most accommodating to tastes. Cons: More initial time to organize. From Marilyn Call

Safely Gathered In – Weekly Rotation

Start with dinners only, add breakfasts and lunches as you grow. From a list of meals your family enjoys often (family favorites) Create 2 or 3 weekly menu plans for rotation. Create ingredient lists for each weekly menu plan. To plan 13 weeks of meals, you will rotate your weekly menu plans 6 or 4 times (plus one) so you will also need to multiply your ingredient lists by the same rotation number. Use basic have/need inventory tracking. Pros: Simple to get started, easy to build on to. Cons: less variety. www.safelygatheredin.blogspot.com – how to (top) (Forms useful for this method found at lds.about.com)

Food Storage Made Easy

Calculating & Tracking Spreadsheet

Food Storage Made Easy has built an Excel spread sheet that will calculate your needed quantities as you enter data about your menu plan, ingredients and frequency. You may want to use one of the above systems to plan your menus, then plug your information into their spreadsheet for the calculations. Pros: Calculations complete after entering little data. Built-in inventory & price tracking. Cons: Some may find overwhelming and/or complicated. www.foodstoragemadeeasy.net – baby step 3

  • Decide on a purchasing plan for your family. Try spending $5-10 each week on adding ‘extra’ groceries to your pantry or choose 1-2 meals per week to purchase a 3-month supply of those ingredients.

  • Once you have an ingredient list it becomes your MASTER SHOPPING LIST. Using your INVENTORY TRACKING and MASTER SHOPPING LIST, you know what you need and you can purchase items at their lowest price as they are on sale at local stores or online. Using coupons can save you even more money when combined with store sales 🙂

  • Since you have created a plan that includes meals your family already eats and likes, you will naturally use (rotate) the items you purchase for your 3-month food supply in your well stocked pantry!


    I will send other documents through e-mail for your use.

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